Seven trustworthy techniques to improve memory
With everything you take in every day, it can be easy to be overwhelmed and drop the ball. We know how it feels! But don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Here are six techniques that can help you improve your memory to keep the important things in mind.
When we meditate, it helps us learn how to be mindful. Meditation involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and bringing your mind’s attention to the present. When we regularly practice mindfulness meditation, this can have a profound effect on the brain. US research (1) found that participating in daily meditation for just eight weeks could help with emotional regulation, planning and problem-solving.
Widely used as memory aids for exam revision, flashcards include information on both sides to help with learning and information retention. They usually follow a question and answer format to help with memorising words, quotes, historical facts and dates or numbers. The process of looking at the front of the card and thinking of the answer is known as active recall. This process can help to create stronger memory connections, particularly as we can use flashcards over and over again to facilitate repetition.
When you use visualisation as a memory aid, you can create powerful images to accompany what you are trying to remember. The trick is to engage your senses when you create an image in your mind of what you want to remember. Provide as much details as possible by igniting your senses in your mind – consider how something looks, feels, sounds, smells or tastes. This helps your brain to combine multiple senses to create strong memories.
If you find it hard to remember phone numbers or lists, chunking is a learning and memory retention technique that’s based on mnemonic practice. The human brain looks for patterns and make connections, so it makes perfect sense why long lines of numbers don’t stick in our minds. Chunking and grouping lines of numbers or items on a list is an effective way to help create those patterns that your brain will find easier to remember. For example, try grouping your grocery shopping list by types of food.
With the Memory Palace technique, also known as the Method of Loci, you associate what you want to remember with a place that is familiar to you. For example, placing words alongside the details of the inside of your home or a route that you take every day. This helps to store what you want to recall in your spatial memory, where familiar information about your routine and environment is contained.
Spaced repetition is usually carried out with flashcards or via flashcard apps such as Anki or Quizlet. The technique helps to instil information you find harder to retain in your long-term memory. Newly introduced and more difficult flashcards are shown more frequently while older and easier to recall flashcards are shown less often. The use of spaced repetition increases the rate of learning and helps to retain more information in the long-term. This is due to active recall which helps to consolidate what you have learned into your memory.
Boost your memory with healthy foods
In addition, eating a healthy, varied diet can help to provide you with essential nutrients for your brain. These include:
- Omega-3 – essential fatty acid that’s found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines
- Mediterranean diet – rich in healthy, unsaturated fats
- Eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and nuts
(1) Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging – Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA, 2010. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density